6 Reasons Your Deer Season Sucked

By Paul AnnearJanuary 31, 2024

Nearing the end of each deer season, I like to do a deep dive into what went well and what went terribly wrong. I’ll type notes in my phone while things are fresh in my mind. It could be anything from where I need to focus timber stand improvement, adjusting a tree stand so I can get away with drawing my bow, silencing gear, or marking a new property on mapping applications so I know what doors I need to knock on for permission.

If we’re honest, some deer seasons go better than others and of course that is to be expected when you participate in a low success rate event like bowhunting. There is nothing easy about it. I want to preface the rest of this article by saying success is determined by each individual hunter. For this article, I’m calling a poor hunting season one where you didn’t harvest your target buck or another trophy buck. Filling the freezer with does is success in my book, so just know the article is centered around the chase for a buck.

Keep reading if you had a great season because this read will still be helpful—but if you had bad hunting season, I’m going to lay out some potential reasons. Luckily, many of your hunting ailments can be cured with effort and sweat. Here is why your deer season may have sucked this year, and what you can do about it.

6 Reasons Your Deer Season Sucked

1. You Did the Same Old Same Old

You told yourself in August you weren’t going to hunt that property or that spot that never produces, but you went back to it because it was convenient, and you didn’t move your treestand. I’ve been there. If you’ve given a particular stand its due time (years likely) and it hasn’t produced results, it’s time to move on or improve it. More on the improvement part coming up. Your spot stinks because either you cannot get into the location without spooking deer, you hunt it on the wrong winds, or you’re just not where deer want to be.

If you’re like me, you’re better at setting up where deer want to be rather than where they are. If you want to hunt right where deer are, you better have wind and noise working in your favor and have thick habitat like cattails or other visual screens to keep bucks from seeing you if you plan to set up within 75-100 yards.

Hunting buck bedding areas is a popular hunting method right now, but unless you can get in clean to a buck’s location, you’re going to spook him. Studying where deer want to be and playing the law of averages is a better strategy for most hunters while knowing he will eventually come through the area and you just need to log the hours. Hunting the same old treestand that hasn’t been producing for you is the definition of insanity.

2. You Didn’t Give Deer What They Need

Not all is lost on those hunting spots you’re tired of hunting, they could become dynamite spots if you give deer what they need. If your land doesn’t have the habitat or food to make bucks feel safe, you will not hold them and therefore you stand a very small chance at killing them. If your neighbors have food, water and cover, you will likely get photos of your neighbor’s core range bucks throughout the nighttime hours. This can be very frustrating, but sometimes it’s an easy fix to coax deer onto your side.

Small waterholes, micro food plots or social areas can be dynamite additions to your land. Even if you are surrounded by creeks or ponds, do not underestimate the drawing power of a small waterhole tub in the middle of woods tucked away on a travel corridor. Deer feel safe using these water sources where they might not always use a creek or pond due to a lack of cover nearby.

Micro food plots and social area openings in the woods become an excellent draw for deer. I find these small openings in the woods are where bucks like to spar, lay down sign, and spend time. Strategically knocking out a few junk trees near a bedding area where you can slip in and hunt can be a hotspot come late October, especially for morning hunts back in the timber away from food. Spice up the opening with a browse tolerant plant like clover, install a scrape/rub tree and a micro plot or social area opening might completely change the game for an otherwise boring hunting location.

6 Reasons Your Deer Season Sucked

If you can plant large food plots or ag fields, I suggest you do it. Having a large destination food plot for deer can be critical in your ability to control buck movement. If you do any late-season hunting, you will be glad you have a five-to-six-acre plot of corn or soybeans.

I find that after mid-November passes, food truly rules the day. Sure, bucks are still interested in does during this time, but the return to food becomes paramount. If you can’t plant multiple acres of food, I would stay away from corn or soybeans because deer will browse it down. Instead, try brassicas, winter rye, oats, or clover and chicory.

3. You Didn’t Hunt Enough

Sometimes the fix for a bad hunting season is simple, you didn’t hunt enough. You didn’t put in the time because of other obligations, or you had the days to hunt and simply underestimated how much stand time it can take to be successful hunting older bucks.

The first time hunting a stand on the perfect day can be magical, but the more I hunt the more I realize this game is usually all about putting in the time. If you are getting bucks on camera consistently in a certain area where you can get in and out clean, grinding it out in just a few of your core stand set ups can get the job done if you put in the hours for an old mature buck.

4. You Didn’t Shoot Your Bow Enough

You have prime hunting land, plenty of time off to hunt, but you didn’t shoot your bow enough and crumbled during a moment-of-truth encounter with a good buck. This can hurt. Finding time to shoot during the clear skies of June, July and August is easy. During the unpredictability of hunting season, it’s easy to grind out the hunting hours and watch deer pass by without ever clipping on to your D-loop. You hunt, watch deer, and go home. This can be dangerous.

If you aren’t shooting does, you need to find somewhere to sling some arrows to stay sharp with your archery equipment in the heart of hunting season. Fall weather can be all over the place, but you should still prioritize shooting your bow. If you really want to be a big buck killer, you need to find yourself walking more blood trails. This means you need to shoot some does, or smaller bucks to start with so you can get kills under your belt. There is no substitute for live deer practice.

6 Reasons Your Deer Season Sucked

5. You Have Too Many Deer, or Too Few

The quest for an old buck can be aided or diminished by the presence of too many or too few deer. If you are in an area where there are too many deer, this could be causing older bucks to stay clear of your property. Many older deer avoid crowds of deer and do not like the social aspect of a property packed with deer. Many old bucks are akin to a grandpa needing to step out into the garage for a few minutes during a boisterous family gathering. They just need to be away from others.

If you have too few deer, you obviously risk not holding enough mature deer to target, but you could have other problems like too many predators such as bear or wolves. In that case, the problem likely isn’t going away and you should attempt to gain access to diversify your hunting options.

If you have been shooting too many deer, just lay off the triggers for a few years and let the population rebound. If you are after mature deer but keeping shooting lower age class bucks just to fill a tag, then it’s your problem to fix. Eat tag soup for a few years and build up the age class of bucks.


6. You Didn’t Find More Hunting Spots

If you want to chase mature bucks, you need good land—and sometimes a lot of it. Every ‘famous’ hunter on YouTube and outdoor television has multiple properties they hunt. None of them put their hopes and dreams into one property. When you have more options, you reduce the likelihood of diseases like EHD wiping out the herd, and by having access to more land, it’s simple math that you also stand a better chance at having a mature buck call your property home.

Wrapping Up

During some hunting seasons it seems all the chips are in your favor while others get swallowed up by Murphy’s Law. Bad hunting seasons are going to happen, but there are likely some reasons as to why. As I’ve laid out, take a look at your practices and strategies and you’ll likely find there are improvements that can be made. 

Paul Annear
Paul Annear is a freelance writer born and raised in the picturesque region of southwest Wisconsin's Driftless area. He currently resides in northeast Wisconsin. He is a proud father of three, willing mini-van driver, and a former 7' high jumper for the Wisconsin Badgers. 
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